As I stated in my previous blog, I am going to be devoting one blog a week to thinking about the philosophy of religion. This segment will be called “Ponder This,” and is meant open a rational discussion of religious faith for believers and others who are interested in such a discussion. If anything I say strikes you (positively, negatively, or neutrally), feel free to comment below (just make sure all comments are respectful).
What is the relationship between philosophy and religion?
Religion is the way in which many billions of people philosophize (is some respects) about the greater questions of reality and “truth”. Religion creates a worldview for the worshiper that is philosophical in nature. Most religions at acknowledge the greater questions of reality, like what is man and what is his purpose and proper state. Even the religions that do not focus on the traditional western conception of “God” focus on some aspect of absolutism, even if it is the absolute need of man to be “whole” in some respect.
Philosophy, in its basic, “ontological” form, asks the question of what is. Religions assume worldviews that, in various ways, answer, or attempt to answer this question of being. In the three major monotheistic religions specifically, the answer to the question of ultimate, or absolute being is God. The I Am is the sole source and center of all of reality. This assertion in and of itself is huge, and often overlooked in traditional arguments within and relating to the Abrahamic religions. All premises within the worldview of biblical religion rest on this primary assertion: that God is ALL.
This is a very philosophical concept. Unfortunately, much of the western Christian world in particular has lost its interest in worldview-depth, and much of the credibility of the religion is thrown into question because of philosophical inconsistency. The terms of Christianity are no longer as clearly defined for believers of the 20th century as they were for the apostles and early church fathers. They have become tangled up in modern arguments, so much so that major concepts are obscured by a mass of confused arguments about history, ethics, politics, science, and a hundred other things that are affected by the philosophies of religion, but are not themselves the philosophy of the religion.
Ultimately, the practical relationship between philosophy and religion is that philosophy helps define the worldview of a living and practiced faith or religion. Philosophy cannot replace religion any more than theories in science can replace experiments and empirical data, but the two aid each in accurate expressions of attempts to understand and interact with existential reality. Religion asserts simply that it believes, while philosophy helps elucidate what is believed.